WHEN PEOPLE TALK about “the next big thing,” they’re never thinking big enough. It’s not like they can’t imagine more; it’s like they can’t observe more. I’ve realized that the future is always within sight, and you don’t need to imagine what’s still there.
The buzz surrounding the Internet of Things.
The IoT is built on cloud computing and networks of data-collecting sensors and is one step up from machine-to-machine communication; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports smart.
When I say people don’t think big enough, what I mean. So much of the chatter has been focused on machine-to-machine communication (M2M): devices communicating to same type devices. But a machine is a component, it’s a helping hand, it’s a thing that’s doing something physically. When we talk about making machines so called smart, we’re not saying strictly to M2M. We’re referring to sensors.
A sensor is not a machine. It doesn’t do anything in the same sense that a machine does. It evaluates, it measures; in short, it collects data. The Internet of Things generally binds together with the machines and sensors, i.e. the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the common intersection of collecting data and gripping it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t a component in place to analyze it in real time.
Cloud-based applications are the key to use leveraged data. The Internet of Things doesn’t function without cloud-based applications to analyze and send the data coming from all these sensors. The cloud is what enables the apps to work for you anytime and anywhere.
Let’s take an example. In 2007, many people were dead, when a bridge collapsed in Minnesota because of steel plates that were insufficient to handle the load of the bridge. When we rebuild bridges, we can replace it with smart cement: cement is equipped with sensors to measure cracks, stresses, and war pages. This is cement that alerts us to fix problems before they cause any unlikely event. And these sensors aren’t limited to the structure of the bridge.
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When ice is scattered on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and send the information through the wireless internet to your car. Once your car knows there’s a danger ahead, it will warn the driver to slow speed, and if the driver doesn’t follow, then the car will do it for him. This is only one of the ways through which sensor-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication can take place. Sensors on the bridge link to machines in the car: turning information into action.
You might start to see the suggestion here. What can you achieve when a smart car and a smart city grid start talking to each other? We’re going to have traffic flow optimization, because instead of just having stoplights on fixed timers, we’ll have smart stoplights that can respond to changes in traffic flow. Traffic and street conditions will be communicated to drivers, rerouting them around areas that are congested, snowed-in, or tied up in construction.
So now we have sensors monitoring and tracking all sorts of data; we have cloud-based apps translating that data into useful intelligence and transmitting it to machines on the ground, enabling mobile, real-time responses. And thus bridges will transform into smart bridges, and cars into smart cars. And soon, we will see smart cities.
Okay. What are the advantages here? What are the savings? What industries can
this be applied to?
Here’s what I mean when I say people never think big enough. This isn’t just about money savings. It’s not about bridges, and it’s not about cities. This is a huge and fundamental shift. When we start making things intelligent, it’s going to be a major engine for creating new products and new services.
Perhaps, the Internet of Things is one the biggest of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, it’s the one that’s going to give us the most disruption as well as the most opportunity over the next five years.